Fill your festive afternoons with our pick of the best crime books and TV.

Depending on the Covid restrictions in place this Christmas, a healthy dose of escapism may be the order of the day. Perhaps, if you can lose yourself in a gripping whodunit, you won’t even notice the turbulence swirling around you. It’s got to be worth a try, right?

Handily, Britain has been conducting a raging love affair with crime fiction over the past few years – and the global pandemic seems only to have intensified our passion for the genre.

According to The Guardian: ‘Readers have been pouncing on stories of murder and revenge [in 2020], with nearly 120,000 more crime and thriller books bought in the last two weeks of June, when compared to the same point last year.’ Meanwhile, in 2017, 18.7 million crime books were sold, which was 19 per cent more than in 2015.

It’s time to get out your metaphorical magnifying glass, light the fire and put your feet up. Here, for a range of age groups, are some of our favourite crime capers to read and watch this Christmas.


Enola Holmes (2020)


Netflix


In this excellent movie – based on the young adult fiction books of the same name – Sherlock Holmes’s sassy younger sister earns her stripes as a detective while she searches for her mysteriously missing mother. With star turns from Millie Bobby Brown, Helena Bonham Carter and Henry Cavill, this riveting film is one for parents and older kids to watch together.


The Thursday Murder Club By Richard Osman


Waterstones


Promising clever twists and killer one-liners, The Thursday Murder Club is the debut novel of the television presenter, Richard Osman. It follows a group of hilarious octogenarian friends from a retirement village as they meet once a week to investigate unsolved killings. Harlan Coben calls it: ‘Compelling. Mystery fans are going to be enthralled.’


Gosford Park (2001)


Amazon


It’s high time to watch Robert Altman’s black comedy Gosford Park again. With its star-studded cast (Maggie Smith, Stephen Fry, Kristin Scott Thomas, Richard E. Grant, Michael Gambon and so many more) and excellent writing by Julian Fellowes, it won several Academy Awards. Mix together a stately home, a missing carving knife, blackmail, nighttime trysts and a murder and what do you get? 137 minutes of pure pleasure.


Murder Most Unladylike By Robin Stevens


Waterstones


Children of eight and above will love this series of detective novels set in a girls’ boarding school. A couple of friends set up a sleuthing agency and can’t find any crimes to investigate – until they stumble across the dead body of their science teacher. Their work is cut out for them. The Financial Times calls the first book: ‘A skilful blend of golden era crime novel and boarding school romp… Top class.’


Knives Out (2019)


Amazon


A wealthy crime novelist (played by Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his country house just after his 85th birthday. The local detective (Daniel Craig) must help his dysfunctional family and devoted staff to figure out the truth behind his demise. Nominated for an Oscar, this is a super slick movie in the tradition of the best old Agatha Christies.


Fire Watching By Russ Thomas


Waterstones


Hailed by Waterstones as its ‘Thriller of the Month’ in November this year, Fire Watching is the absorbing tale of a maverick detective desperate to kick-start his career with a case he can get his teeth into. The investigation that could change his fortunes turns out to link compromisingly to him. Can he solve it without his superiors discovering the connection? Lee Child – one of the world’s leading thriller writers – says: ‘A pitch-perfect blend of the best of the old and the best of the new… I loved it.’


Sherlock


Netflix


Want the good news? There are four series of this beauty for your delectation. Set in modern-day London and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the famed detective with Martin Freeman as his sidekick, Sherlock is among the UK’s most watched dramas ever. The 2016 New Year’s Day special drew 11.64 million viewers. It will more than pass the time.


The New Girl By Harriet Walker


Waterstones


The Times’s fashion editor brings style and panache to her first novel. Delicate, suspenseful and brutal, it tells the story of a new mother grappling with isolation, anxiety and increasing paranoia. Pandora Sykes calls it: ‘A Devil Wears Prada-meets-Gone Girl mash-up, this is a deliciously heady concoction of fashion and fear, best gobbled down whole, over one lockdown weekend.’ Order immediately.


Murder On The Orient Express By Agatha Christie


Waterstones


If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Murder on the Orient Express was written in 1934 and is thought by many to be the best of Agatha Christie’s 66 detective novels. Featuring the now iconic Hercules Poirot, a sumptuously comfortable train, a maddening snowfall and… an unexplained death, this vintage little number will see you right through to the new year.

By Becky Ladenburg
December 2020

READ MORE
Country Life: Christmas Presents For Rural Dwellers
37 Shiny and Spectacular Christmas Decorations
Food Glorious Food: Great Gifts For Gourmands

Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.

FIND OUT MORE